Thursday Night Movie Club
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
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Release Date: 4 April 2014

Director: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
ACTORS:
Chris Evans
Samuel L. Jackson
Scarlett Johansson
Robert Redford
Sebastian Stan
Anthony Mackie
Cobie Smulders
Frank Grillo
Maximiliano Hernández
Emily VanCamp
Hayley Atwell
Toby Jones
Stan Lee
Callan Mulvey
Jenny Agutter
CHARACTERS:
Steve Rogers / Captain America
Nick Fury
Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
Alexander Pierce
Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier
Sam Wilson / Falcon
Maria Hill
Brock Rumlow
Jasper Sitwell
Kate / Agent 13
Peggy Carter
Dr. Arnim Zola
Smithsonian Guard
Jack Rollins
Councilwoman Hawley
Captain America: The Winter Soldier movie poster #1 Captain America: The Winter Soldier movie poster #2 Captain America: The Winter Soldier movie poster #3
Steve Rogers', aka Captain America (Chris Evans) past comes back to haunt him in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Rogers is having a difficult time fitting into this strange new world after being thawed out of deep freeze. He is used to getting orders and carrying them out. There isn't much of a place for him in the modern military. Rogers is none too happy to be Nick Fury's (Samuel L. Jackson) lap dog. Fury only contacts Rogers when he wants something done.

Chris Evans and Samual L. Jackson in Captain America: The Winter SoldierCaptain Rogers is called upon when a cargo ship is overtaken by pirates. His mission is to capture the leader and rescue the hostages. The mission is fairly routine for Captain America. However, routine couldn't be further from the truth.

Rogers corners the leader Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández) only to discover that Sitwell is every bit an equal to Rogers strength. Something is wrong. Matters get worse when Rogers finds Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, (Scarlett Johansson) downloading computer files. Rogers is not pleased to learn Black Widow is on a different mission than him, not to mention Fury didn't tell him about the different missions. Rogers sees this as a gross breach of trust. Trust is one of the main issues/conflicts in The Winter Soldier.

On the eve of S.H.I.E.L.D. launching a new initiative, Nick Fury has his own problems/trust issues. When he tries to access the data files from the cargo ship, Fury finds his access is denied. Fury contacts his good friend Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) to discuss his concerns. Pierce agrees with Fury but the committee overseers of S.H.I.E.L.D. are not convinced. The initiative will proceed on schedule.

Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson in Captain America: The Winter SoldierAfter his meeting with Pierce, Nick Fury comes under fierce attack. He is surrounded by phony police vehicles who open fire on Fury's vehicle. Luckily, the vehicle is armored. Just when Fury is safe, he is attacked by The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), an unknown mercenary of incredible strength and awesome firepower. Fury barely escapes but finds he is now a hunted man. He trusts only one person... Captain Steve Rodgers!

Fury is able to deliver the stolen computer files to Rogers before The Winter Soldier guns him down. With shield in hand, Rogers pursues his quarry hurling the shield at the Winter Soldier's back. The Soldier nimbly catches the shield in one hand and flings it back at Rogers. Rogers needs both hands to catch his shield which pushes him back a few feet. Rogers is stunned. Too many things are happening way to quickly!

After Fury is gunned down, Rogers returns to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters seeking answers. He enters an elevator alone. Each time the elevator stops and the doors open, a few more men in suits enter the car. The directors allow the suspense to build slowly as Rogers slowly realizes the trap in which he is snared. Somebody forgot to tell these men that Steve Rogers is Captain America!

Robert Redford in Captain America: The Winter SoldierWith Nick Fury out of the picture, the chain of command is strained at S.H.I.E.L.D. Rogers barely escapes when the agents try to arrest him. New alliances must be formed between Rogers and the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Whom to trust is the central theme of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There comes a time when people will have to make a choice between what is easy and what is right. Does one follow a direct order or follow their own instincts?

The screenplay written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely keeps the surprises coming at a furious pace. They have numerous plot twists coming in fifteen minute intervals... or less. The script gives out no foreshadowing which allows directors Anthony Russo & Joe Russo to slowly build suspense or shock the audience with the suddenness of an action sequence.

Scriptwriters Markus and McFeely have added many scenes of ironic humor. Nick Fury's SUV is voice-controlled. When the rogue police forces surround his vehicle, the computer voice calmly informs Fury, "There are no official police forces in the immediate vicinity." The calm voice underlies the seriousness of Fury's predicament. Suddenly, Fury is under a barrage of gunfire!

Rogers carries a small notebook and pen wherever he goes. Whenever someone suggests a movie to see, television show to watch, music to listen to, books to read, restaurants where to eat, etc., Rogers adds that item to his notebook and crosses them off upon completion. There is a quick jibe about "Star Wars". Sam Wilson(Anthony Mackie) tells Rogers he should see the trilogy but only episodes IV-VI. Quite funny!

Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan in Captain America: The Winter SoldierMore shocks are in store for Rogers. But first, screenwriters Markus and McFeely present Rogers and Natasha Romanoff with a clever series of hints and clues to decipher before they discover the shocking truth. Hydra, an old adversary of Rogers from World War II, is still in operation. They have infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. and are now running the organization. Worse yet, they have created The Winter Soldier. He has the same abilities as Captain America, but he has been put into cryo-sleep and then thawed whenever his particular "talents" are required. To say that Rogers is stunned when he learns the identity of The Winter Soldier is putting things mildly.

Chris Evans has grown into the role of Steve Rogers. Rogers is more complex than Evans' previous superhero role as Johnny Storm, The Human Torch (Fantastic Four). Evans is comfortable in the role. After battling Sitwell and the Winter Soldier, Evans shows Rogers' confusion at their abilities with a simple facial expression. He doesn't say some goofy glib line. Interestingly, most of the movie involves Steve Rogers and not Captain America.

Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans in Captain America: The Winter SoldierWhereas the first film was rather straight forward, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a convoluted mystery. This film is a personal journey for Steve Rogers who is still struggling to fit into the modern world. Rogers is unprepared for modern political agendas. Treachery and betrayal are things he does understand. The screenwriters have given Evans more to do, and he is more than capable of handling all the various layers, both personal and professional. The most touching scene comes when Rogers meets his former love from the first film. Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is now very old and bedridden. The scene is memorable because both actors play the scene as if they were still young lovers. The dialog and acting from both is great.

Also, Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow) is more than just a pretty face, with a great body and a skin-tight costume. Black Widow is a lot like Rogers. Both are outcasts and loners. Trust is hard to come by for them. They don't trust Nick Fury. After the rescue mission where they have separate agendas, they do not trust each other. They are forced to join forces when they realize, despite everything he has done, Fury whole-heartedly trusts both of them. Johansson is tough, smart, sexy, playful, bitter and angry, usually at the same time. Like Evans, the screenwriters have finally given Johansson some material in which she can sink her teeth. (It would be nice to see a solo effort about Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow.)

Chris Evans in Captain America: The Winter SoldierStan Lee's cameo appearance is his best yet. Steve Rogers, locked out of S.H.I.E.L.D. where his current Captain America costume is stored, has not choice but to break into the Smithsonian Institution and steal his original costume. Lee, portraying a security guard, looks at the missing costume and remarks, "I am so fired!" Absolutely wonderful and hilarious.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an above-average super-hero film. Like "The Dark Knight", this film is primarily concerned with character development. The plot is complex with large doses of mystery, intrigue, action and genuine surprises. There is also plenty of room for human interactions, tenderness, care and humor. The special effects, especially the long shots of the battles on and around the flying airships is stunning. The screenwriters raise difficult problems. The answers are equally difficult. Best yet, not all questions are answered.

The Captain America franchise is in good hands, so far. Enjoy!!